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Work of the Week – Julian Anderson: Exiles

Displacement and cultural longing – this is, according to Julian Anderson, the essence of his composition Exiles for solo soprano, chorus and orchestra. Over five movements, the composer thematises variations of exclusion and exile, ranging from corona-lockdown to national socialism. The work’s texts include French, Hebrew, English and Czech, as well as quotations from the Bible. The world premiere on 22 April 2022 at the Philharmonie Berlin sees Robin Ticciati conduct the Rundfunkchor Berlin and the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin with soloist, Australian soprano Siobhan Stagg.

The different perspectives of banishment in Exiles by Julian Anderson

The theme of exile is a deep source of inspiration for Anderson, whose Jewish extended family were killed during the Holocaust. The first movement addresses the internal exile of the covid lockdown in 2020, using text from an email from Moroccan-French composer Ahmed Essyad to a number of fellow composers. The second, Tsiyon, sets Psalm 137 “By the Rivers of Babylon” to music in the original Hebrew. The text speaks of the longing for the homeland ‘Tsiyon’. La République des Lettres is the third movement, and pays homage to American diplomat Varian Fry, who in 1940-41 saved around 2500 European citizens whose lives were threatened by the Nazi invasions of Europe. Le 6 octobre is composed in memory of the musicologist Harry Halbreich, who fled Vichy France to Switzerland on foot that day in 1942, aged just 11. Finally, Praise and Farewell sets three lyrics to music. First a portion of Psalm 108 (in English) in chorus: a celebration in which all nations come together in worship. It is punctuated by Apollinaire’s witty and irreverent text ‘La Grace exilée’, which describes a rainbow in exile.

The texts range from the ancient and mythic to the recent and personal, in an attempt to explore the theme of exile from numerous different spatial and temporal perspectives.  Julian Anderson

A second performance of Exiles takes place on 23 April in the Philharmonie Berlin. Commissioned by the London Symphony Orchestra, London Symphony Chorus, Boston Symphony Orchestra and Bayerischer Rundfunk, the work will be heard in the UK and US in the coming seasons.

photo: John Batten